Disturbing incident on Israel bound airplane at Budapest Airport

Hungarian authorities are being tight lipped about a terrifying accident that occurred at the Budapest Airport. On March 23, Dikla Abitbul, a 38-year-old mother of two from the Israeli city of Lod apparently fall out of a plane to the tarmac, sustaining head injuries; she is in critical condition. There have been no press conferences, no TV interviews with safety officials, and not one of the involved passengers have been interviewed on Hungarian media.

Here is what we know: Israir Airlines contracted a Czech Smartwings Boeing 737-800 to bring passengers back to Israel from Budapest. Israir’s own plane apparently had broken down the day before and passengers waited eight hours for the replacement jet to be readied for the flight back to Tel Aviv.

Once the passengers were boarded the plane was taxiing at Budapest Airport when suddenly thick smoke entered the cabin. The passengers first complained and then panicked.

Liszt Ferenc Airport in Budapest

It is not clear what happened after this. It seems that the cabin crew opened the doors of the plane to deploy the emergency chutes enabling passengers to leave the plane. People rushed to exit the smoke-filled cabin.

There wasn’t a fire on the plane. According to one explanation the airport’s towing tug emitted thick exhaust that was sucked into the cabin by the plane’s air-conditioning system. In the chaos on board Abitbul apparently fell from the aircraft before the chute was opened.

Abitbul’s mother, Riki Sapirin, said that her daughter didn’t slide. “She didn’t manage to slide. She was standing at the entrance to the plane, among the first five passengers that stood in line so that they would open the slides.” Sapirin said that either the wind from the engines or perhaps a push from the passengers behind her caused Abitbul to fall out of the aircraft and plummet to the asphalt below. (Read Stuart Winer’s report here.)

Airport exhaust inside a plane? Wind from the engines? Pushed out of the open door of the plane?

Budapest Airport officials need to hold a press conference and honestly present the circumstances of this incident. Hungary’s government controlled press tends to suppress unpleasant news. Without a satisfactory explanation of this incident legitimate questions will be raised about the overall safety and operation of Budapest Airport.

György Lázár

7 Comments

  1. It was covered on the local TV news here in Budapest a couple days ago.

    • Which TV?
      There is no word of this at any media outlet.

      More telling about the media in Hun is the following bus accident at the airport, which has been reported everywhere, but for “public”and gov controlled media – not a word there (at the state MTI one cannot search).
      Bad things don’t happen in Orbanistan.

      • As I don’t speak Hungarian much at all, I had asked my wife if she had seen anything on the TV news about this accident, and she said yes. She typically watches M1 and RTL Klub channels for news, so it was probably one of those.

        Can’t say I agree with your assessment of no bad news here. RTL is quite critical in is reporting.

  2. That’s not the airport’ fault, but the plane itself.
    The air conditioning systems do re-circulates the air, do never such in air from the outside. Just like in your home air conditioner.
    It could never cool the fresh new air from the outside.
    Smoke in the air-plane’s cabin, often caused only by the mel-functioning electrical system.
    That has happened a few time with air crafts.

    Sorry to read that the lady was pushed out of the emergency shuts by the panic.
    Hope she will recover well.

    • I’m afraid you do not correctly understand how aircraft ventilation systems work. They do recirculate cabin air to a degree, but they also admit “fresh” air from outside the aircraft, either through the engines or, as was likely in this case, through the APU, which provides ventilation before the engines start.

  3. MARK
    You do mix up the understanding of “ventilation” and “air conditioning”.
    But no need to be “afraid”of it.
    Ventilation is run while the cabin is being servised, cleaned, etc.
    But the air conditioning (cooling or heating) starts before the pessenger loading starts.

    • My point was that the aircraft is not air tight, and smoke from outside the aircraft can get sucked into the cabin, even after the doors are sealed. As this incident occurred just before or during pushback, it is unlikely the engineers had been started yet. A/C was probably still supplied by the APU.

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